How to Win

Brown, Rosellen

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Annotated by:
Aull, Felice
  • Date of entry: Aug-12-1999


Narrated in the form of journal entries, a mother struggles to cope with a hyperactive child and "its" disruptive effect on her daily life and household. Home and school and the walk between are the microcosm in which the story is set. She fluctuates between distancing herself from her son--he is barely human--"'It' is what races around my room at night, a bat, . . . ", could not even be her own--"I gave birth to someone else's child," and desperate attempts to understand how the world must appear to him, to account for his behavior.

One day she not only walks him to school but accompanies him to his classroom. She sees how the teacher has relegated him to the back of the room "for the special inattention of the aide"; then watches with horror as her son causes a multi-child collision and the children retaliate by stomping on his neck. "Every day they walk on his neck, I see that now, but he will never tell me about it." In this defining moment she sees how, in order to survive, her son allows his spirit to be broken, day after day.


This is a powerful view of how the very fabric of a family's existence can be disturbed by a child's abnormal behavior, and especially of the effect on the parent who bore him and who takes care of him. The author renders the mother's preoccupation with self and child so skillfully, that the reader is simultaneously sympathetic to both. This story was selected for Best American Short Stories.


Street Games was reprinted by Milkweed Editons in 1991. This story was selected for The Best American Short Stories of the Century, eds. John Updike & Katrina Kenison (Boston: Houghton Mifflin) 1999.

Primary Source

Street Games


Doubleday: Ballantine

Place Published

New York



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